Cartoonist sexually harassed on a panel in front of a room full of people

In all of the recent talk about sexual harassment in comics, many of the responses to well-documented incidents in bars has been “Oh, I never saw anything like that!” or “Maybe that’s not how it happened.” Well, here’s an incident that took place ON A PANEL IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE. That’s right, in front of people, and still a male comics person was able to demean and belittle a woman sitting right next to him with no one to stop him.

THAT’S HOW BAD THIS INDUSTRY IS.

Bay Area cartoonist MariNaomi recounts an incident that took place at an unnamed panel at the LGBTQ-themed Prism Comics panel. She was seated next to the sole heterosexual white male on the panel, an unnamed fellow who certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere with the exchange illustrated in this cartoon:

marinaomi5 Cartoonist sexually harassed on a panel in front of a room full of people

There’s much more in the piece about the guy’s totally assholish behavior. What’s the most saddening is MariNaomi’s reaction; instead of feeling good about speaking out on an important topic, she felt embarrassed and shamed for…just for sitting in the wrong chair:

We get the hell out of there. I vent to my husband. We drive to my friend’s house and I vent to her and her partner. That evening, I distract myself with comfort food, wine and an engaging movie, and hope that I’ve gotten past it, but six hours after the panel has ended, I’m sobbing on the couch, feeling helpless and self-loathing.

I hate myself for acting like everything was fine, for not standing up for myself, for letting him disrespect me in front of all those people. Thirteen hours later, it’s the middle of the night and I’ve woken up in a rage. I’m not over it. In fact, I can’t think about anything except how victimized I feel. How there’s nothing I can do about it now.

Did the other panelists notice how inappropriate he was acting? Did the audience? Did his fans?

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. Years ago, at another comic convention, a fellow panelist blatantly looked me up and down and said it was “getting hot in here” — onstage, humiliated in full view of an audience of hundreds. That time, like this one, I was so shocked and confused that I ended up saying nothing.

Why did this man go out of his way to humiliate a fellow professional on stage? Although guesses are made to his identity in the comments MariNaomi prefers he be kept anonymous, a situation which I abhor, but which reflects the reality in an industry so male driven that this situation passed without any notice.

I feel it’s so unfair when the accuser is known and the transgressor remains anonymous.

This piece from The Comics Journal has a better power ratio: both parties are anonymous, but there’s rock solid evidence of what happened, because it was a letter; the piece is called “How To Discourage Women From Cartooning” and it lays out a pretty good campaign for just that. In this case a male cartoonist saw a picture of a female cartoonist in a book and proceeds to write her a drunken mash-note. He did what some people think about but rightly dismiss as inappropriate:

I have photographic evidence for this one, but I don’t have any proof of the other sleazy “real life” encounters I have had in my career.

Every woman I know has had them. They add up, and combined together they go far beyond frustration. While some people might enjoy this type of attention, my beliefs are that:

-This benign-seeming, flirty yet slimy type of talk is how you discourage women from putting themselves out there.

-This type of behavior is how you make women wary of men who show an interest.

-Most of all this type of nonsense is how you discourage women from doing the things they feel most passionate about.

Men of comics, I am about to teach you a truth so astounding, revelatory and profound that I suggest you sit down first. Such is its power that you may never be able to think about women the same way again:

WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS WITH GOALS,

ASPIRATIONS, IDEAS, HOPES AND DREAMS.

THEY DO NOT EXIST SOLELY AS VESSELS

TO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD.

Got that? Perhaps by engaging with these goals, aspirations, ideas, hopes, and dreams in a collegial way, you will actually become friends, and not just another in a long line of patronizing dream-killers.

I’ll be back in the new year with concrete proposals for things every one of us can do to end harassment in comics. You can send me your own suggestions here: Comicsbeat@gmail.com. I welcome your feedback.

Comments

  1. Agree with ever word you said and share your indignation, with the exception of this bit:
    “…certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere”
    For real? Maybe comics professionals – since many seem to be challenged in the social skills department (this is where I paint with MY broad brush). But this straight guy, and I, and most other I know, wouldn’t engage in such clueless, offensive behavior.

  2. Here’s another straight-guy opinion, jfire: you’re wrong. “DB” is actually a perfect specimen of “straight guys everywhere,” both inside the comics scene & out. And i have hundreds of straight-guy comments on my own comics about sexism to serve as evidence. I also have a lot of comments — ONLY ever written by straight men — that try to make the case you’re making. No non-straight non-male ever does, though. And that’s some fascinatingly revealing math.

  3. This article got me mad. There’s no justification for what that guy said. None. At. All.

    I try to talk to others with the same respect and consideration I would expect from them. To do any less is just proving that one is an hairless ape with basic vocal mimicry skills.

  4. Sean Tulien says:

    Hey Heidi–I think you’re the best comics journalist/blogger out there, but I have to say it’s more than a little annoying how you lump men together in the latter half of your article. I agree with “jfire” above that those of us in the industry who do not behave in such an abhorrent fashion would really appreciate two things: 1. knowing the names of these jerks so we know not to work with them; 2. not being condescending to anyone, even “straight white males” as a collective.

    I won’t say many of us don’t exhibit these tendencies; I won’t even say most of us don’t–but I will say that the ones I work with don’t, and we’d really like to know who IS behaving in this manner so we can better draw a line in the proverbial sand.

  5. JFire, I was being a little sarcastic but…he certainly stands in for an attitude that is widespread among straight males.

    BTW, I like men, I like being around men, and I like reading about their thoughts and deeds. I just hope the feelings are mutual.

  6. Tony Bedard says:

    Heidi, you state the guy was “the sole heterosexual while male on the panel.” Was that supposed to be “white” male?

  7. well, DB doesn’t stand in for this straight guy, nor for most I know. So that’s not “everywhere.” Those in my circles respect women — many are married and have daughters. And, like me, would find the behavior cited above as deplorable. That’s not in any way to suggest such behavior doesn’t exist, or that sexism isn’t a very real problem. It’s just to say, there are some decent straight guys out there and it doesn’t help advance your argument to say we’re all the same, and all bad.

  8. White guys, tsch. Always busy focusing on irrelevant minor impositions suggested about them, rather than making any move to address the huge full-on prejudice and discrimination that other people have to face.

  9. why do other straight guys seem to think guys like DB exist in some sort of vacuum? Do y’all really think DB could have acted like this if a room full of people — a whole culture full of people — weren’t allowing & encouraging him to?

    Aside from that, It’s pretty disgusting how EVERY discussion of one straight man’s bad behavior seems to get degraded — always by other straight men — into pedantic insistance that straight men are just fine, & it was only this one bad-apple straight guy who was the problem. I mean, congratulations, nice guys out there, for ensuring us you wouldn’t act like DB, but this is not the issue. If you’re trying to show women support, there’s not many worse ways to go about doing it.

  10. Tony Bedard says:

    ???

  11. Sean Tulien says:

    Steve, I think what jfire and I are saying is that we’d be better able to DO SOMETHING about the situation if these offenders were named so we: don’t buy their products; don’t work with them; see EXACTLY what their behaviors are so they act as warning posts to those with similar tendencies.

  12. Sean Tulien says:

    There’s a tree filled with bad apples, Gabby. Maybe even a forest, I don’t know. I just want to know who these men are so something can be done even if it’s dealing with the particulars instead of the, yes, much larger cultural problems.

  13. i agree with steve. Sean, nothing Heidi wrote here is HINDERING your ability to call out men like DB, and making that the issue is pathetic & derailing. Put your ego aside for a second and make straight men harassing women the issue to this article, and not Heidi’s writing decisions. That way you might stand a chance at appearing like you’re not part 0f the problem.

  14. Sean Tulien says:

    Pathetic and derailing? To want specificity with regard to these kinds of behaviors? I AM making the issue about MEN harassing WOMEN–regardless of the man or woman’s orientation–the issue.

    No matter how condescending your responses or how much misrepresentation you’re applying to my comments, the fact remains that yes this behavior is abhorrent and it needs to be corralled and eliminated.

    Multiple topics can be debated at once–all or nothing isn’t relevant here. If you read what I wrote, you’ll see what the focus is–doing something about this shit.

    Generalization is bad–regardless of how culturally messed up or gender-sensitive an issues might be, and only one of us (hint: not me) is making declarative statements about a gender at large.

  15. Sean Tulien says:

    (Unrelated, but I just read some of your comics and love them.)

    Regardless of the venom in your responses, I’ll consider what you wrote and I apologize in advance if anything I wrote was naive or insensitive. Upon reflection, this is derailment of a sort and I’ll bow out of the discussion.

  16. I agree with jfire…ESPECIALLY not in a professional setting. Maybe I’ve been cursed with having worked in corporate environments for too long but this just isn’t how someone trying to make a living should act at what is THEIR JOB.

    I’d really like to know who this guy was.

  17. Sean: yawn. Let’s scroll up & notice how the only reason you posted a comment on this post — a story about a woman getting sexually harassed in public by a dude — was to tell a woman she’s wrong & wrote a bad thing. Ie, not the best time for “declarative statements about a gender at large” (whatever that means), if you’re trying to show you’re One of The Good Ones. How about just sitting back & not making your ego the issue for once?

  18. Tiger Park says:

    Sorry Sean et al. When the first straight guy in the room’s response is ‘but we’re not all like that!!’ to a discussion about harassment of women in comics/tv/insert industry here, it’s taking the subject off about the actual harassment – it’s become about the protesting straight man’s feelings, NOT the women who are the victims. You gents are angry about generalisations because it generalises YOU and your pals, guys who you believe strongly are Good Guys and ‘don’t deserve’ to be painted as villains, as it is hurtful.

    You’re right, it’s totally hurtful. TO THE VICTIMS.

    That’s what derailing is, and that’s what you guys are doing. It’s become more about your hurt feelings today than the ongoing, damaging, gruelling experience of women in comics that we experienced then, now, and likely tomorrow and the next day and the next event, etc. We have to suffer this as fans, as creators, as critics, and when we talk about how we were abused, harassed, or even raped, how on earth do you think it’s appropriate to start shouting down the speakers by talking about ‘not all guys are like that’ and making multiple comments that take the topic off awareness and how to address the problem and making it all about your feelings for the day?

    Oh yeah, ‘male privilege’.

  19. Sean Tulien says:

    Wow. You have a nasty habit of misrepresenting situations and being aimlessly insulting and assumptive. How’s that whole “you’re all idiots except me” approach going for you in enacting positive change?

  20. I don’t mean to come off like an asshole. It just gets hard to be patient with this reaction after reading so many thousands of IDENTICAL comments, from so many different straight men, every single time there’s ever a post anywhere on the internet about men being sexist. I just wish for once there wasn’t the guy with the “BUT I’M NOT LIKE THIS SO THIS IS WRONG!” comment, and then 100 other men going “YEAH ME TOO!” You’d be amazed at how unoriginal this response is, & consistently it has a straight male author, & how counterproductive it all comes off.

  21. Calista Brill says:

    I don’t think many people would seriously make the case that all straight dudes behave in way x. As (probably needlessly) pointed out here, that’s a silly thing to say about any group of humans, and I don’t think Heidi is seriously suggesting that, either.

    That said, there’s this knee-jerk response that some men have to this kind of conversation, which is, “Hey, but I don’t do that!”

    And that’s not helpful either. It’s great you don’t do that, but, like, I’m pretty wiling to take that for granted. I mean, the basic standard of reasonable human behavior involves not doing that. So I’m going to pretty much assume everyone I meet doesn’t do that, until I’m proven wrong.

    I’m a white person, and I try not to respond to articles about racism with “But I don’t do that!” — I aim rather for “Do I do that? Do I know anyone who does?” And, maybe most usefully: “What can I do IN GENERAL to make this situation better?”

    And to that point: the purpose of publishing a story the way the TCJ did or the way MariNaomi has done is NOT to ask other men to step in and punish one particular offender. It’s to say, “Hey, this kind of thing happens a lot, and part of the reason for that is we work in a culture that’s fairly permissive of this kind of behavior. Let’s all try to make sure we are mindful of this in the future, and maybe we can make our culture LESS encouraging of asshattery.”

    I don’t think it’s constructive or useful to respond to this conversation with blanket accusations but it’s also not constructive or useful to respond to this conversation with defensiveness. Congratulations on being a decent human being — now your job (all our jobs) is to strongly encourage everyone around us to follow suit.

  22. The reason that it’s “men” and not “some men” is that we are ALL a part of this culture of degradation and aggression against women. Yes, even the self-proclaimed “good ones.” Especially the “good ones.”

    This is bigger than you and thus encompasses you. If you are male you are a passive beneficiary of a world created to harm women. It doesn’t matter that “you” didn’t “do” anything. You don’t have to do ANYTHING. You’re part of the problem. So am I.

    There is no dragon to slay and no boogeyman to raise the curtains on. This is a cultural environment. So instead of talking about “nooo, not meeee,” start talking about how you (specifically) are going to do your modest part to overthrow the social order.

    PS: it will take longer than your lifespan. Are you tough enough to fight for change that you will never live to see? I didn’t think so.

  23. Sean Tulien says:

    Fair enough. I don’t think you’re an asshole, and yes, it was derailing. I went through some other similar-themed blog/journalist posts and saw that you’re right about one thing for sure: my comments/concerns, and jfire’s, are pretty common and often distract from the more important issue. My priorities probably align with yours–the only truly important issue here is, as you say, that someone was absolutely disrespected and it happens a lot (especially in the industry). I really, truly, HONESTLY, from the heart–I just wanted to express that everyone is going to be more proactive in engaging positive cultural change if we avoid generalizations. It’s frustrating for me and I’m not even experiencing any of it–I get a lump in my throat and my heartbeat quickens because I want this shit to just stop happening because it makes ME feel dirty when I see it, so I can’t even imagine how it makes women feel who actually get targeted and bear all of the force of it.

  24. Sean and JFire — is this story about the sad misconceptions that straight white men must labor under every day?

    Or is it about the real stuggles of women to be taken seriously and not treated like a beautiful object?

    I mean…do you honestly not see the misdirection going on here?

    For the panel: why DO male-dominated societies continually dismiss the intellectual and creative capacities of women? Is it just physical attraction? Can a man not see a women as a colleague if he finds her attractive? Or is there more to it?

  25. Adam Tyrrell says:

    Calista, your response is so intelligent and even-handed I feel like it should posted as a preliminary notice to all SWMs before articles/editorials like this.

  26. “Steve, I think what jfire and I are saying is that we’d be better able to DO SOMETHING about the situation if these offenders were named so we: don’t buy their products; don’t work with them; see EXACTLY what their behaviors are so they act as warning posts to those with similar tendencies.”

    The solution isn’t for us to discover bad behavior days or months or even years after the fact and then maybe there will be some sort of indirect consequences, maybe some small portion of the audience will avoid buying his work. The solution is for the harassment to be stopped IN THAT MOMENT when it is happening.
    Here’s why I suspect marinaomi didn’t name the man: it doesn’t matter who he is. He could have been anyone. The real problem is he was enabled because no one else in the room helped her in that moment. If you insist that Not All Men Are Like That well ok sure, most men are neutral and don’t actively hurt their female colleagues. Fine. Cool. But where are the anti-harasser men?
    Here’s an uncomfortable question for me to introspect on – if I had been one of the panelists in that room, or one of the audience members, would I have said anything? Because from her account it seems like it was obvious she was visibly uncomfortable and he was deliberately overstepping his bounds even after she didn’t respond positively. Would I have interfered? Or would I have been uncomfortably silent, hoping that someone else would speak up? Would I have let the moment pass, hoping he just made a mistake and wouldn’t continue? If I had been the moderator of the panel, would I have challenged him? Would I have had the guts to ask him to leave? Would I have said “hey, that’s inappropriate” I don’t know.

  27. “Not all men are like that” is just another way of saying “This is not my problem.”

  28. “Thirteen hours later, it’s the middle of the night and I’ve woken up in a rage. I’m not over it. In fact, I can’t think about anything except how victimized I feel. How there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

    I’ve been here before. It’s so hard at the time to say something, because your struck speechless by the very idea that people can be so willfully ignorant and mean spirited. Frustrating as this is, I’d take this as a testament to anyone’s good character. Your shocked at the time, because it would never occur to you to behave that way. When you’re a kind and well behaved person, and you keep like company, it’s easy to forget (in your daily goings on but not in your collective knowledge, mind you) that there are people going around who don’t think twice about hurting all they come into contact with. I’d wager this individual doesn’t just single out women, but rather spends a lot of time thinking of ways to make personal attacks on most people he comes into contact with. I had a Nazi skinhead spit at me once, and I definitely don’t fit into the stereotypical hate radar that they’re known for.

    Bullies find excuses for their hate, and fixate on them, but ultimately, they’re still just bullies. Anyone to cares to take the time and think about it knows that they’re fixations are invalid, empty, and meaningless. If they grow up in later life, they will come to regret what they do, but if they don’t, then they need a little pity. They’re missing out on so much life meaning, that is kept at bay by their inability to understand the value of an individual soul.

    Bullies are always going to stand out above the good people, because they attract the outrage. It’s okay to be outraged, but it’s also good to keep in mind who’s feelings you might also hurt, if your outrage is cast to wide.

  29. Sean Tulien says:

    I see your point, Heidi; it is shifting the focus away from where it should be. I see now that my point was far from original and not contributing to the important discussion (and detracting from it). My apologies to all–my intent was good, but my my aim was bad. (Please delete my comments if you feel that is the best course of action as you wrote a wonderful piece and I don’t want to detract from it. Or keep them up so that someone else might see my error in timing and reasoning.)

    To get back on target…Outright misogyny is a bewildering thing to experience at conventions, especially when I’m working a booth. I used to think it was more common at comics conventions because attendance skewed largely in favor of males, but no longer believe that is the case because SDCC attendance stats this past year showed male and female attendance to be roughly equivalent, yet I still observed abusive behavior by men (mostly young boys or men pushing females out of the way to see books they were interested in, or harassing cosplayers). Perhaps it can be any or all of those things–but one thing I’ve definitely noticed is that once someone speaks up, whether the target of the harassment or someone else in proximity, the harasser’s response is almost always hostile. If a man demonstrates outwardly that he doesn’t respect women, then gets angry when called out on it, I think there’s a fair amount of fear involved to speak up as the whistleblower might be the target of verbal or physical abuse. Insecure artists (or people for that matter) will often grab on to any reasoning they can in order to justify what they perceive as their own, inferior product/illustration/writing/whatever; in a culture where women are objectified and marginalized, it’s probably too easy for the ego to reach out and ridicule a female professional for sexual or appearance-based reasons in hopes that others will then see the harasser as superior in some manner (if not creatively).

  30. I’ll say dirty things meant to be silly to someone I feel I know, but this is far different. I think if guys like this can’t afford a lawyer, expose them by name and shame them.

  31. @Alexa
    May I suggest another meaning. “Please, don’t judge my character on the actions of another, just because we happen to have the same gender and same color skin.” Ultimately, no individual can be held responsible for another individual’s actions, unless we’re talking about chain of command, but we’re not. We can set examples through our actions and work to uphold what we deem to be moral, but that is all that can reasonably be expected of anyone. When the Japaneses bombed Pearl Harbor, it wasn’t right for the United States to round up all of it’s Japaneses descended citizens. They were Americans and had no part in Japans decision to do so, but fear and outrage made it “okay” to lump them into the same category, and punish them for it. It wasn’t remotely fare.

  32. Fair.

  33. OK, I’ll bite: who was on the Queer comics panel at Long Beach Comic Con? I can’t find that info anywhere.

  34. Calista Brill says:

    Godwin’s law, everybody.

  35. Calista Brill says:

    Okay, that wasn’t fair of me, since technically Christopher Moonlight was invoking the massive disenfranchisement, displacement, and mistreatment of Japanese Americans during WWII, not European Jews. Sorry, Christopher!

    But come on, dude, nobody’s sending anyone to an internment camp here. Yeah, it isn’t fair or accurate to say all dudes pull this shit, but the problem is this shit gets pulled ALL THE TIME and it’s almost always dudes doing the pulling, and ladies who are on the receiving end. I think it’s fair to say it’s a problem of misbehavior by men, and I think it is also fair to say the onus is on other men to help address this shit.

    Nobody is accusing you personally of doing anything – you’re the one who raised that topic. What HAS been said is that it is people of your sex who are the problem here, and it would be rad if you could find a way not to take that personally.

  36. Heidi: I can see that my comment DID derail the conversation. I very genuinely intended it to mean only one thing: DB doesn’t represent all straight men. You followed up to say that you meant that sarcastically. OK.

    My intention wasn’t to shift the argument away from your point, which I said I agree with: Too many men act terribly toward women. I don’t know whether it’s “many men,” “most men,” or “nearly all men.” But the problem is very real, has a long history, and is serious.

    I wasn’t looking for absolution – just saying this straight guy is on your side. Reading the other comments and the irritation some have expressed, I see that the “hey, it’s not me” response is not original, and can be a deliberate distraction from the issue at hand. Again, that wasn’t where I was coming from. I seldom engage in these sorts of discussions and pretty much never get into heated web comment debates. So, sorry.

    I’ll try to get back on topic, too.

    My take is that, along with our long history of sexism as a culture, there’s a major problem among Western — maybe mostly American males — involving maturity. It’s a field of psychological discussion — masculine maturity. Why can’t men grow up, get past adolescence and treat women like fellow humans? SOME men. MANY men. Whatever. But it’s a problem, and what’s to blame for it?

    As a field and industry, comics seems to especially have issues along those lines. The way women are depicted in mainstream comics and the ill treatment of many women comics professionals I’ve seen recounted over the years seems to indicate the problem is severe within the industry and medium. Maybe it’s more noticeable because the field is smaller. But I’ve noticed by reading industry news, reading comics and witnessing comics fans/readers, that maturity and mature behavior is often lacking.

    How do you fix it? Call out the bad actors as you’ve done and continue to do. Discuss the problem. Raise our sons to be respectful and help them to grow up and become decent men. Other ideas?

  37. This comment thread is it’s own story. Haha. Goooood loord. Heidi writes about problems affecting women in comics/creative fields, then some dudes come in and dominate the conversation to talk about themselves. And suddenly they’re the aggrieved ones. Oh man. It’s beautiful.

    I am beginning to think that articles like this shouldn’t have comments activated. Since most of the responders are usually men, and they are usually derailing the conversation–it might be nice if they just had to sit and listen for once, and couldn’t chuck their two cents in.

  38. People, you could also ignore the dissenting voices. But you never do.

    Sarah: But I also want to keep the dialog open for OTHER voices. Which are then driven away by the first voices. I want to create MORE opportunities for people to speak out, but it’s impossible.

    If anyone has real suggestions, please email me at comicsbeat@gmail.com with suggestions for my next article; WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

  39. Tony Bedard says:

    “it might be nice if they just had to sit and listen for once, and couldn’t chuck their two cents in.” Can you imagine if I said that about women?

    This comment thread would probably have stayed on topic if the article didn’t lead off saying that this asshole “certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere.”

  40. @Sean – This kind of misogynist crap happens “even” at cons with equal male/female attendance because regardless of that statistic it’s still a comics con, where such behavior has long been institutionalized. It’s been the norm for so long that the perpetrators expect that they can get away with it. And they do. It’s like being a white person in a city that’s only 50% or less white: you still have white privilege, and act accordingly.

  41. OH TONY NOT YOU TOO!!!!!!!

    Out of everything in the article THAT is what you became offended by? The line making fun of white male privilege

    Come one man, the ONE STRAIGHT GUY ON THE PANEL turns into a AGGRAVATING LECH and I’m not allowed to give it the same weight as every racial/sexual/religious stereotype about NON STRAIGHT WHITE MALES.

    If nothing else has proven the massive sub-conscious battle that is going on here, this is it.

    Okay now imagine the MACRO-aggressions that you have to go through EVERY FUCKING MINUTE OF YOUR LIFE when you are NOT a straight white man.

    FUCK THAT.

  42. Thanks for the demonstration of false-equivalence argumentation, Tony.

    I hate to break this to you, but when you take a long-standing social imbalance, and briefly turn it on its head, it’s not the same thing.

  43. Tony Bedard says:

    Nah, Heidi, I’m just saying that’s what derailed the comments. I was plenty offended by what he said.

    Also, why not name him?

  44. there’s a cultural illiteracy component to this, too. If you’re talking about comic cons: you’re dealing with large groups of guys fed a steady diet of sexy imagery in mainstream comics that feeds their objectification of women, plus the presence of “booth babes” and women cosplaying scantily clad comics characters. Appropriate or not, some guys see this as an invitation to treat women as sex objects. If they are immature or have no meaningful relationships with “real” women in their lives — both common among many comics fans — they don’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s just fantasy and meant to be playful or fun or ironical.

  45. If I’m as guilty of “mansplaining” as anyone else, fair enough. But I don’t think empathy is automatically patronizing or requires being in a person’s shoes. A rich person is not insincere for pointing out wealth disparity, a white person can speak out against racial prejudice, a straight person can favor gay marriage, and being male is not a minus in believing guys like this are jerks. I haven’t read every comment all the way through, but if any man claims to also be a victim, a pox on them too. (Aside: is there a policy on profanity here?) Vive la difference!

  46. @Christopher, If you read the sentence “Men need to stop harassing women” and you can’t help but feel like you’re being included in that group, that says a hell of a lot about you that you need to face up to. That’s what I mean when I say “Not all men are like that” = “This is not my problem”. It is a stubborn refusal to deal with any inkling of a possibility that you are not as innocent as you think, that you, as a man, benefit from an extraordinary amount of ingrained societal privilege that as of yet women have no hope of ever attaining, no matter how much education, wealth, success, and/or fame they gain. And that you, in subtle, nigh undetectable ways, have used your privilege at the expense of women.

    I examine my racial and class privilege all the damn time. I don’t whine to an oppressed group that they’re hurting my feelings, when their safety, their livelihoods, their very right to exist are threatened on a daily basis in ways I can’t even imagine.

  47. Sean Tulien says:

    @Jason: yes, that was my point. I agree that it’s institutionalized–I was explaining another possible reason why more people don’t speak up. Anyway, I think the only real way to combat the harassment and abuse is to speak up when it happens and take great pains not to participate even passively in something that facilitates the type of behavior. Also, having worked on superhero comics, it’d probably go a long way to have more female writers working in the medium–and to stop depicting superheroines/villains as obnoxiously-busty-women-in-revealing-clothes who also happen to be heroes.

  48. MariNaomi says she doesn’t want to turn it into a witch-hunt. I’d kinda like to punch the dork a few times myself, but I respect her wishes. At that point it would become about That One Guy, and take the attention of all the sexist dorks who happen to be someone else.

    Also, keep in mind that, as soon as the perp is named in situations like this, a whole bunch of his fans will assume his innocence and immediately flock to his defense – aggressively – and the victim finds herself set up for a round of backlash for “attacking” him. I not only respect the desire to avoid that, I understand it.

  49. There is a lot dysfunction among men in comics. There are 2 parts to it I see – men enculturated with the idea of comics as a near-exclusively male activity – and insecurity because while it is a male-dominated activity, it isn’t an ‘alpha’ male activity like professional sports, or motocross, or what-have-you.

    I’m not trying to excuse men being dicks, just trying to examine it.

  50. @Jason, Just like this Jim C. Hines comic summarizes all discussions of sexual harassment: http://www.jimchines.com/2013/08/sexual-harassment-conversations-in-comic-form/

  51. Heidi, that’s the problem with taking the high ground…you have to be more careful than the people you’re fighting against. You can’t demand that people be treated like individuals with their own ideas and hopes and then make prejudiced comments about another group of individuals. Not without a little blow-back, anyway.

    Having said that, I think these guys are a little more sensitive than needed. That’s the thing about male privilege: these guys can just go elsewhere to avoid the heat of being treated marginally unfairly. Women can’t!

    But I think the points have been made and heard by all (as much as it can be).

    Again, I wish this guy would get named!

  52. Silly But True says:

    Re: Tony Bedard. Sherlock Holmes, this ain’t. The panelists are listed online for the event. There were two men on the panel, and given Sean Z’s twitter description, I’ll go out on a limb and say it “probably” (as in “definitely”) wasn’t him.

    Silly but True

  53. I just read MariNaomi’s account, and now I am pissed.

  54. Michael P says:

    I see the “bad apple” metaphor has been invoked, so I’ll borrow a turn of phrase from Philip Limbardo: The problem isn’t a few rotten apples. The problem is a rotten barrel.

  55. Hufnagel says:

    Generalizations are bad. It doesn’t matter if they are about groups of people that have been demeaned or degraded or about groups who are lucky enough to avoid that kind of venom in their lives. Doesn’t matter if they’re about men, women, any race or religion or anything else. They’re just bad.

  56. Someone a while back used the “they’re asking for it” defense. What is this, 1976?

  57. Mariah Huehner says:

    Tony – Okay, I wasn’t going to comment on this but…no. It would not be the same. Men are not being marginalized, as a group, by this one conversation about sexism women experience in comics. They aren’t being silenced or hurt in any way by being asked to listen instead of comment. To maybe consider the privileged position they come into this conversation with, and that they may be derailing it by turning a conversation about a woman being harassed on a panel in front of a room full of people…into hurt feelings over a flip phrase from Heidi.

    I rather doubt it would have “stayed on track”. It never, ever, does. Someone ALWAYS has to try and derail it, intentionally or not, because that’s how the status quo works. That’s why this problem keeps coming up, because people deny it, derail it, gaslight it, or otherwise turn into being about anything other than the topic: women’s experiences with sexism.

    Tone policing or otherwise twisting this into being about men having hurt feelings about a generalization IS part of the overall problem. If you don’t do this kind of thing, great! You are not the problem. Heidi didn’t make anyone jump to this over what the entire piece was actually about. That was purely about a few people get defensive and choosing to derail.

  58. Mariah Huehner says:

    For those asking “why not name him”, a few things.
    1. Mari was very clear that the point of her piece wasn’t this one dude, but the fact that this. keeps. happening. It’s about more than individuals, it’s about what is clearly a geek culture wide problem (and, let’s face it, mass culture in general). It’s easy to make it about individuals and ignore the larger ramifications.

    2. A lot of women who come forward but don’t name names are afraid of liable, backlash, and their careers. No one wants this kind of thing to define them forever, color their careers, or adversely affect them. The reality? Many of us are not safe to name names. We have to protect ourselves, because honestly, no one else is currently stepping up.

  59. Why not name him, people ask. Because then you have to put up with all the “fans” of that dude also sending you abuse and harassing you and derailing your very real grievance and upset.

    Fuck, I so much as write about PERCEIVED sexism at a comics con and I get hate mail, abuse and “you’d better hope you don’t run into me there” threats and I’m not even a comics creator with more to lose.

    As long as women are told, “well did it really happen like that”, or “there are two sides to every story!!”, or “not all men are like that!!”, MANY women will not feel safe speaking out nevermind naming names to bring further judgement and harassment down upon themselves.

    You want women to be able to name names and feel safe speaking out. THEN MAKE COMICS A SAFE COMMUNITY AND INDUSTRY FOR WOMEN.

    Every convention I go to I hear another story from a woman too scared to speak out. Every single time.

    The fault doesn’t lie with them, it lies with an entire crowd where no man stands up and says to the other men, this isn’t fucking okay. Because the women? They know better than to make themselves the new target.

  60. Hee, as ever Mariah Huehner says it far more eloquently and with less swearing than me :D

  61. Sean Tulien says:

    Another problem: when men speak up against misogyny in public (especially on the Internet, I’m looking at you, Reddit), often a large amount of apologists start claiming the man only stood up to the harasser in order to curry favor with the women being harassed–the whole “white knighting” phenomena (and it is definitely a widespread response). The general knee-jerk reaction seems to be: “you’re only defending those women because you want to sleep with them,” which reeks of projection. That sort of empty rhetoric seems to be a rally cry for fellow apologists.

  62. Tony Bedard says:

    “Hee, as ever Mariah Huehner says it far more eloquently and with less swearing than me :D”

    Agreed. Thank you, Mariah, for the thoughtful comments. Seriously.

  63. There’s this saying: “if the shoe fits, wear it”.

    That means that if you read the statement “men need to stop harassing women”, and you’re a man and you harass women, the statement was about you. On the other hand, if you already don’t harass women, then the statement wasn’t about you.

  64. Silly But True says:

    I will point out the always-ignored side problem: adultery. Based on the string of reported incidences of “men being dicks,” there’s also the (married) men trying to one-night-stand (married) women while at comics conventions.

    Without minimizing all the other problems, that ought to be a problem in its own right, too.

    Silly but True

  65. Ignoring the other weird fight happening in the comments right now, can I ask why the panel isn’t named and why there’s no response from Prism on this? You’d think it’d be in Prism’s best interest to account for people like this anonymous white heterosexual male they invited out to a panel– if he behaves this way and is aggressively, publicly hostile to other guests, why was he invited at all? Is there a chance they don’t know about it? Because if I was working for Prism and had helped put together this panel, I’d be extremely angry that someone was representing my organization this way and I’d want the chance to make it right and ensure it didn’t happen in the future. Maybe MariNaomi doesn’t want to name names or give specific details, but it’s disturbing that journalists aren’t doing the basic footwork of seeking out the organization that put on the panel to see what else there is to the story. This isn’t DragonCon we’re talking about, it’s not an organization that has been okay with hiding its shady past until recently, we’re talking about one of the rare comics organizations, an NPO to boot, that is explicitly devoted to diversifying comics.

  66. Sully But True – men being dicks is the problem in both those scenarios though. Unless you’re objecting to consenting adults hooking up which is their own business.

  67. Silly/Laura: I’ve heard the whole “what if there’s an open marriage situation?” defense for the adultery angle but that’s never rang true to me. If someone’s in that type of situation they wouldn’t have to skulk in the shadows like we see happen in these scenarios.

    So yes, men being dicks is the problem.

  68. Mike D says:

    I stopped reading after the thing about “stood in very well for straight guys”, it pegged the article as hysterical bullshit early on.

  69. “She was seated next to the sole heterosexual while male on the panel, an unnamed fellow who certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere with the exchange illustrated in this cartoon:”

    WOW.

    Seriously?

    Did you actually write these words, Ms. MacDonald? Perhaps you think it’s okay to make blanket statements about hetereosexual white males, but I assure you, as someone who HAPPENS to be a heterosexual white male and who HAPPENS to be greatly concerned with social justice, you have a long fucking way to go before you even begin to GRASP the fucking concept. While I suspect you already know this, retaliating in kind is rarely the way to go about winning allies in the struggle for fairness and equality.

    You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. I eagerly await tomorrow’s apology.

  70. ‘I stopped reading after the thing about “stood in very well for straight guys”, it pegged the article as hysterical bullshit early on.’

    I’m not so sure about “hysterical,” Mike, but it’s certainly the most nakedly hypocritical piece of garbage I’ve read all month.

  71. Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have to go pretend to watch Fruitville Station and make a donation to the ACLU, while I actually go out and rape a fuckload of terrorized women, as the vast majority of white heterosexual males (an abhorrent group that should be ushered into gas chambers dotted across the vast plains of America) are wont to do.

    Un-fucking-believable.

  72. Tony Bedard’s comment above (time-stamped at 4:35pm) echoed my initial thoughts. Thank you Mariah Huehner and Laura Sneddon for expanding that part of the conversation — and thus, our understanding.

  73. Paul Little – an apology? After you attempt to dismiss white male privilege by making a fucking reference to rape?! There’s only one unfuckingbelievable comment here and it’s yours. Did you even bother to read the comments??

  74. Laura – I’m pretty sure it’s clear that you’re the one not paying attention.

    Here’s how it works: Heidi said something unconscionable, and now she apologizes for it. Everything stops until she realizes that it’s completely unacceptable to make blanket statements about enormous groups of individuals based on their sexual orinetation, race, and/or gender. Period.

  75. Yes Paul, your the real victim here. Everybody, please feel sorry for Paul.

  76. And she went for the fucking HAT TRICK! All three! I love being made to feel two-feet fucking tall because of the way I was born – try this: ask yourself if Heidi’s statement would have been remotely acceptable if she’d replaced “white,” “male” or “heterosexual” with any other race, gender, or sexual orientation. Tinker with her formula just slightly, and the absurdity of her statement becomes immediately clear. If blanket statements about black gay females are wildly inappropriate – and they certainly are – then the same must hold true for other groups, as well.

    No one is denying that privilege exists in this or any other industry. My objection is that I’m being lumped in with Lobdell – a creator whose writing I do not like and whose attitudes I do not endorse – simply because of the way I was born. It’s blatantly unacceptable. Period.

  77. Thanks for your carefree disingenuousness, Jamie, but we both know I never made that claim. Could you grow up and address the inappropriateness of Heidi’s comment, or is that too fucking much to ask?

  78. The implication that white + male + heterosexual = enemy needs to stop. Right now. Feminists and the LGBT community have PLENTY of allies who look like me, and reducing us to a group of slavering misogynists and rapists-in-waiting does no one any favours. It’s unbelievably insulting to those of us who do our part to stamp out the kind of behaviour exhibited by Lobdell in this case, and it’s likely one of the many reasons why it persists.

    If you’re having a hard time reaching the Fedoras and the socially maladjusted, it might be wise to not alienate half your readership. Just a thought.

  79. Paul Little if you put half the energy into actual social justice that you have into your display of petulant, indignation at white male privilege being called out we’d probably have far fewer dudes acting liking douche bags. Especially ones that use rape as metaphor in their petulant displays of manguish.

  80. Sarah says:

    I don’t think an apology is in order, that seems way excessive, but I have to agree with Paul Little’s first comment above (no comment on his follow-ups). The whole ‘men of comics, I’m about to teach you’ thing, along with the huge generalizations , was just embarrassing, moronic and demonstrative of a high-school-level of understanding, debate and simplification that serves only to muddy the quality of discussion possible here. There’s the potential for good things to come of this extremely unsettling situation but it’s quite clear it’s not going to be happening on The Beat.

  81. Sue: more disingenuousness? Seriously? Maybe you’d like to see some of my donation receipts and photographs of me at various demonstrations. Believe it or not, among many other kinds of people, there were other white heterosexual males present.

    Again, I say: un-fucking-belivable.

    At no point have I displayed anything remotely in the neighbourhood of denial or indignation regarding privilege. I’ve simply pointed out that those of us who do not abuse it as Lobdell does have a basic right not to be lumped in with him because of a handful of traits that we happen to share. Either you want me to hate myself for being white, male and heterosexual, or you fail to understand prejudicial language when it stares you in the fucking face.

    Is this really so difficult for you?

  82. Sarah – thank you for your support, halting though it may be, but I’m afraid I must insist that an apology is very necessary at this point.

    The word “privilege” comes up a lot in criticisms of the things I’ve written here, as if I ever once denied its existence or the role it clearly played in the exchange between the parties at the centre of this story. Ironically, my complaint is that I really can’t stand Lobdell – neither his characterization of women in comics nor his attempts at humour from the podium – and my objection is being lumped in with him because I am, according to Heidi, like every other “white male heterosexual” out there.

    This sort of prejudicial statement does no good whatsoever, and is philosophically identical to suggesting that all “black male youth” are thieves and murderers, more or less. It’s so blatantly unacceptable that I can’t believe so many idiots are willing to let it slide – or that they would resort to the level of obfuscation we see here in the comments to provide cover for Ms. MacDonald’s insulting choice of words.

  83. Mike D. says:

    “if you put half the energy into actual social justice that you have into your display of petulant, indignation at white male privilege being called out we’d probably have far fewer dudes acting liking douche bags”

    I doubt that, internet social justice is completely meaningless.

  84. But hey, “privilege” is the Secret Word for people who think they understand social justice but don’t have the first fucking clue about it, right?

    Even if we recognize our privilege and steadfastly refuse to abuse it – even if we do our due diligence to encourage other people like us to do the same – tough shit! People who look like me are the last acceptable bastion into which a person might pour their spite, frustration and even hatred. Sometimes I get the impression that certain parties won’t be happy until I hate myself as much as they do for having been born white, male and straight.

    Congratulations on failing rather spectacularly in your quest to grasp the point, folks!

  85. “Straight guys everywhere!” God, I hate those guys! Aren’t they the worst? All of them, all the time, everywhere? Especially the white ones.

    What an acceptable thing to say.

  86. Downright acceptable, folks. No apology necessary, because no harm, no foul!

  87. Leigh Walton says:

    “But we’re not all like that” is useless, and a lazy way of excusing yourself from thinking about the problem or sympathizing with the person making the claim. When someone says men are socialized to belittle/devalue/ignore/silence/objectify women, and your response is to say “that’s not important, stop talking about that, how absurd, I have to correct you and point out that *I* would never do such a thing” you are literally illustrating the point.

    Paul Little, not that I expect your comments to stay on the site, but: yikes. Stop digging. “Don’t hijack the conversation to make it about yourself” is not the same thing as “we hate you and demand that you hate yourself.” You can just let it go.

  88. And again, my criticisms are being met with yet more obfuscation. This is extraordinary. You people are the most obdurate bunch of commentators I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with in my 15+ years online. How many times do I have to acknowledge privilege or state that I think Lobdell is an asshole who deserves his comeuppance before you’ll stop talking over me and simply ADDRESS THE ACTUAL OBJECTION I HAVE MADE?! Can any of you read, or do you just sit around typing the word “privilege” into the ether until you get your way?

    You can’t bully somebody into agreeing with you, Leigh. We all know that. Will my comments be deleted? As one who supports the main thrust of this article and is constantly doing his part to out and shame creators like Lobdell, I sure hope not. But if this is the kind of site we’re on, so be it. (And it would certainly explain why so many people seem to hate The Beat so passionately.)

    Here’s the fact of the matter: Heidi misspoke. Period. The end. Stop trying to hand-wave away prejudicial statements by invoking the thin spectre of privilege.

    Now let’s get the apology out of the way quickly and sincerely so we can actually discuss this incident the way it deserves to be discussed.

  89. Since some of you have never taken a civics class, ever, here are some examples of unacceptable statements:

    A) “I was sitting on the subway the other day and the only black homosexual Jew happened to be sitting close by. He and and his friend were having an animated conversation and were swearing a lot, which seems to me to be a pretty gay black Jew thing to do.”

    B) “She was seated next to the sole heterosexual while male on the panel, an unnamed fellow who certainly stood in very well for straight guys everywhere with the exchange illustrated in this cartoon: [cartoon of a heterosexual white male saying something completely inappropriate]”

    C) Literally any other generalization along these lines. FUCKING PERIOD.

  90. This isn’t difficult, guys. Come on.

  91. “JFire, I was being a little sarcastic but…he certainly stands in for an attitude that is widespread among straight males.”

    How widespread, Heidi? Do you have stats?

  92. Most of us, Zach. Clearly! That’s a stat, right? It’s probably roughly as accurate as saying that all feminists are shrill idiots who are okay with prejudicial statements so long as they don’t negatively impact the socioethnic groups they favour.

    A totally acceptable statement, as any of Ms. MacDonald’s apologists will attest, just as soon as they’re done shoving privilege into a non-privilege-shaped hole to better defend her objectionable and flatly unacceptable statement.

  93. Zach: pretty widespread in my experience, which includes being the only woman in many all male enclaves for years.

    Paul Little, when you sent me a heartfelt email I was like, okay dude. Reading your meltdown here I’m flabbergasted.

    I did see that my JOKE was worded poorly, so I rewrote it to be clearer, since sarcasm is not allowed unless you are a….oh I won’t say it. Hopefully straight white men can sleep a little sounder tonight. Very relieved.

    I haven’t been saying all guys needs to be herded to an island prison. I’m just saying, THINK, explore empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes once in a while. Until you’ve worn Louboutins you don’t know power.

    And with that, let’s close this down and go Christmas shopping.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I first read MariNaomi’s story of the guy who was sexually harassing on that panel, I thought he was an asshole and should be outed. And then I thought, gee I wonder if it is someone […]

  2. […] convention panel made the rounds of the comics blogsphere Thursday like lightning. Heidi MacDonald wrote about it at The Beat, and shortly afterward veteran writer Scott Lobdell outed himself as the person MariNaomi was […]

  3. […] week, a comic creator named MariNaomi wrote a blog post about sexist and racist remarks that Scott Lobdell (the same Hemingway who gave us “sexy fun […]

  4. […] of women who work in the comics industry, either as publishers (and esteemed ones at that) or creators (more here), and reports of the staggering inequality in the gender breakdown of creators and […]

  5. […] voie de disparition. Du moins au Canada. Je souligne qu’il y a pas mal de chemin à faire  pour être "considérée" dans ce domaine. C’est un peu moins pire que dans le domaine des […]

  6. […] professionals like Tony Harris rambling on about fake geek girls and cosplay, or Scott Lobdell sexually harassing MariNaomi and then delivering the worst apologies he possibly could, or the recent controversy with Brett […]